Minding the Gap

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7 Responses

  1. Quidpro says:

    The argument that it is individual choices that account for much of the differnce in pay between men and women sounds “more plausible” because it is. Women who have never had children earn as much as similarly situated men. Once women choose to bear children, their career choices often change. They often seek more part-time work, or jobs requiring fewer hours and less travel, etc.

    To say that women’s choices are more “constrained” than men’s misses the mark. Today’s choices necessarily limit the choices I can make tomorrow.

  2. Miriam says:

    Women make 80% of what men make right out of college. In fact women with degrees from prestigeous universities make less than men from second tier schools. This is obviously not their ‘choice.’ (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267862,00.html)

  3. Miriam says:

    Women make 80% of what men make right out of college. In fact women with degrees from prestigeous universities make less than men from second tier schools. This is obviously not their ‘choice.’ (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,267862,00.html)

  4. Quidpro says:


    Everyone acknowledges the gap exists. The issue is causation. Look at your own situation. Were you “forced” to take an academic position and denied the opportunity for employment in the private sector where you might have made more?

    A private law firm that passes over hard working and talented women is at a competetive disadvantage. As you well know, the starting salaries at the large firms are the same regardless of sex.

    Women may not “choose” to make less. Few people do. But they often make choices that lead to lower compensation compared to their male peers as their careers progress.

  5. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Why does this argument, which seems so easy to dismiss in the context of race discrimination, strike some as more plausible when it comes to women’s labor market “choices”?”

    Because everybody who’s not seriously self-deluded understands that the differences between men and women are more than skin deep. There’s more DNA on the X chromosome that never shows up in a woman than it takes to define many species. You can do MRI on male and female brains and see gross differences.

    The differences between men and women are hugely greater than the differences between the races, that’s why it’s plausible that different job market outcomes aren’t the result of discrimination.

    “Much effort has been spent implementing option No. 3, the cheap way out.”

    Um, yeah, people generally do try the cheap way out first… It’s cheaper.

  6. A.J. Sutter says:

    I think QP is overlooking that in most cases it isn’t just women who choose to have kids: more often than not there are husbands involved in that choice.

    Moreover, many men (myself included) have a better attitude than execution when it comes to sharing household duties. Consequently, once a couple has chosen to have kids, or even just to set up a household, in many cases it’s the woman who has to do the most double-duty.

    Dominique Méda, one of the most prominent French analysts of the nature of work, suggests that in addition to reducing out-and-out discrimination (e.g. different pay for same work), one of the remedies for this problem is to reduce the standard number of hours for “full-time” work. She points out that it’s tough for two parents to work 40-hour weeks; as a result, many women quit once they have children, or they take part-time or lower-paying work. Méda suggests that if the standard week were, say, 32 hours, it would be a lot easier for parents to share duties, while at the same time (i) giving women access to better work opportunities, and (ii) creating more employment opportunities for everyone. If you read French, I strongly recommend Méda’s concise and terrific « Le travail (3me éd. 2008) ».

  7. JP says:


    The article you point to suggests that 3/4 of the pay gap can be explained by occupation, parenthood, etc…. In other words, the pay gap is attributable to several causes, including both employee choice and employer discrimination.


    A French analyst suggesting a shorter workweek? Très cliché!

    More seriously, I don’t believe it’s clear whether a 32 hour workweek applied to American society would result in more or less gender equity. It may well just mean more men (and single-mothers) working two full-time jobs.